3D printing has revolutionized the way we create and prototype designs, from toys and gadgets to medical devices and industrial parts. However, the quality and durability of 3D printed objects depend largely on the type of filament used, as well as the settings and techniques used to print them. One of the most versatile and popular filaments in the market today is PETG, a type of thermoplastic polyester that offers a range of benefits and applications for hobbyist and professional 3D printing alike.
What is PETG Filament?
PETG stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified, which is a mouthful to say but basically means a type of plastic that is stronger and more flexible than standard PET or PETE plastic commonly used in bottles and packaging. PETG filament is a specific form of this plastic material that is designed to be extruded into thin filaments, which can then be fed into 3D printers to create a variety of shapes and objects.
Features and Properties of PETG Filament
PETG filament offers several features and properties that make it a popular choice for 3D printing. Some of these include:
- Transparency and Glossiness: PETG filament has a high level of clarity and glossiness, which makes it ideal for creating clear or translucent parts or objects that require high aesthetic appeal.
- High Chemical Resistance: PETG filament is highly resistant to many chemicals, including acids, alkalis, and oils, which makes it ideal for creating parts or objects that need to withstand harsh environments or chemical exposure.
- Low Shrinkage and Warping: PETG filament has a low level of shrinkage and warping, which means it can retain its shape and dimensional accuracy even after cooling down from the extrusion process.
- Odorless Printing: PETG filament does not emit any noticeable odor or fumes during printing, which makes it a more pleasant and safe material to work with than some other filaments that may release harmful particles or gases.
- Biocompatibility for Medical and Food-Grade Applications: PETG filament is FDA-approved for food contact and biocompatible for medical and dental use, which means it can be used to create items such as containers, trays, and orthodontic devices that are safe for human consumption or contact.
Image source: Megabound via Thingiverse
Advantages and Disadvantages of PETG Filament
PETG filament has several advantages and disadvantages compared to other filaments, such as PLA, ABS, and Nylon. Some of these include:
High impact strength and flexibility: PETG filament is known for its durability and toughness, making it an excellent choice for parts that need to withstand impacts, shocks, or vibrations. Its flexibility also makes it less likely to crack or break under stress, compared to brittle materials like PLA or ABS.
Excellent layer adhesion and printability: PETG filament has good inter-layer adhesion, meaning that each layer bonds well with the previous layer to create a strong and cohesive object. It also has good printability, with minimal warping or shrinkage during printing, resulting in accurate and reliable prints.
Minimal warping or shrinkage: PETG filament has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, which means that it expands and contracts less than other materials when exposed to temperature changes. This property helps to minimize warping or shrinkage during printing, even without a heated chamber.
Smooth and glossy finish: PETG filament has a high level of clarity and glossiness, which makes it ideal for creating objects that require a smooth and shiny finish. Its transparency also allows for interesting light effects, such as light diffraction or color blending.
Good chemical resistance and UV stability: PETG filament is resistant to many chemicals, such as acids, alcohols, and oils, which makes it suitable for industrial or medical applications. It also has good UV stability, meaning that it won't degrade or yellow over time when exposed to sunlight.
Low odor and safe to use: PETG filament is made from non-toxic and BPA-free materials, which makes it safe to use for food or medical purposes. It also has a low odor compared to other filaments, which reduces the risk of respiratory irritation or headaches.
Requires higher temperatures and slower print speeds than PLA or ABS: PETG filament requires higher extrusion temperatures (220-250°C) and slower print speeds (40-60 mm/s) than other common filaments like PLA or ABS. This can result in longer print times and higher energy consumption, as well as higher wear and tear on the printer components.
Can be prone to stringing and oozing: PETG filament is more prone to stringing and oozing than other filaments, which can lead to messy or imperfect prints. This can be minimized by optimizing retraction settings, temperature, and cooling.
May require heated bed or specialized adhesives for best adhesion: PETG filament may require a heated bed temperature of 60-80°C to prevent warping or detachment during printing. Some printers may also benefit from a specialized adhesive, such as a PEI sheet, BuildTak, or glue stick, to ensure good bed adhesion and minimize warping.
More expensive than some other filaments: PETG filament is generally more expensive than other filaments like PLA or ABS, which may limit its accessibility for some users.
Printing PETG Filament
PETG filament is compatible with most 3D printers that support FDM or FFF technologies, such as Prusa, Ultimaker, Creality, and Makerbot. However, PETG filament may require some specific settings and techniques to achieve optimal results. Here are some tips for printing with PETG filament:
- Extrusion Temperatures and Print Speeds: PETG filament typically requires higher extrusion temperatures than PLA or ABS, ranging from 230-250°C. Print speeds should be slower than for PLA or ABS, typically around 40-60 mm/s, depending on the printer and filament quality.
- Bed Temperature and Adhesion: PETG filament may require a heated bed temperature of 60-80°C to prevent warping or detachment during printing. Some printers may also benefit from a specialized adhesive, such as a PEI sheet, BuildTak, or glue stick, to ensure good bed adhesion and minimize warping.
- Cooling and Retraction: PETG filament is sensitive to cooling and may require less cooling than PLA or ABS to prevent cracks or deformations. Retraction settings should also be optimized to minimize stringing and oozing between prints.
Applications of PETG Filament
PETG filament can be used in a wide range of applications and industries, thanks to its versatile properties and certifications. Here are some examples of how PETG filament can be used in 3D printing:
- Medical and Dental Devices: PETG filament is biocompatible and can be sterilized, making it ideal for creating prosthetics or printed casts.
- Food and Beverage Packaging: PETG filament is FDA-approved for food contact and can be used to create containers, bottles, cups, and other packaging that need to be transparent, lightweight, and safe for consumption.
- Mechanical Parts and Enclosures: PETG filament can be used to create durable and impact-resistant parts, such as gears, brackets, casings, and housings, that require good dimensional accuracy and toughness.
- Artistic and Decorative Objects: PETG filament's clarity and glossiness make it ideal for creating artistic or decorative objects, such as sculptures, vases, lamps, or jewelry, that require high aesthetic appeal and light transmission.
PETG Filament Compared to Other Materials
Compared to PLA filament, PETG filament offers better impact resistance, flexibility, and chemical resistance, while still maintaining good printability and minimal warping. PLA filament is more brittle and less durable than PETG, making it suitable for objects that don't require high strength or flexibility, such as prototypes or decorative items. PLA filament is also easier to print with, requiring lower extrusion temperatures and faster print speeds, and is more affordable than PETG.
Compared to ABS filament, PETG filament has better printability, minimal warping, and is less prone to cracking or breaking over time. ABS filament is known for its high impact resistance and toughness, making it suitable for objects that require strength and durability, such as automotive or mechanical parts. However, ABS filament requires higher extrusion temperatures and a heated chamber to prevent warping and cracking, and emits fumes that can be harmful if not properly ventilated.
Compared to nylon filament, PETG filament has better printability, minimal warping, and is less prone to moisture absorption and degradation over time. Nylon filament is known for its high strength, flexibility, and abrasion resistance, making it suitable for objects that require durability and wear resistance, such as gears or bearings. However, nylon filament requires higher extrusion temperatures and slower print speeds, and can be more difficult to print with due to its tendency to warp or shrink during printing.
Compared to polycarbonate filament, PETG filament has better printability, minimal warping, and is less prone to cracking or breaking over time. Polycarbonate filament is known for its high impact resistance and temperature resistance, making it suitable for objects that require strength and heat resistance, such as automotive or aerospace components. However, polycarbonate filament requires higher extrusion temperatures and a heated chamber to prevent warping and cracking, and can be more expensive than PETG.
Overall, PETG filament offers a good balance of strength, flexibility, printability, and chemical resistance, making it a versatile and reliable choice for a variety of 3D printing applications. While it may not excel in every aspect compared to other filaments, it offers a unique combination of properties that make it a popular choice for hobbyists, makers, and professionals alike.
PETG filament is a versatile and high-quality material for 3D printing that offers several benefits and applications for hobbyist and professional users alike. By understanding its features, properties, advantages, and disadvantages, as well as the best practices for printing with it, you can create high-quality and functional objects that meet your specific needs and requirements. Whether you are a medical professional, a designer, an engineer, or an artist, PETG filament can help you bring your ideas to life and push the boundaries of 3D printing innovation.